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Barbell Shoulder Exercises



There are primary benefits of shoulder strength which include size, injury prevention, and appearance. Shoulders, like biceps, have [relatively] minimal fat covering up the muscle. This means that your shoulders are one of the first muscles that you’ll notice visual results from after you begin working out. Those are the primary benefits. There are also secondary benefits to performing barbell shoulder exercises. For example, improved control and gains in your other lifts. Your shoulders are present in some capacity in most of your upper body (and some of your lower body) lifts. Increasing shoulder strength will have a noticeable impact on your other upper-body lifts.

Shoulder Exercises for Mass

Barbell shoulder exercises are critical for packing on shoulder mass. The most critical of these exercises is the barbell shoulder press. The use of the barbell instead of dumbbell will allow for you to lift a bit more weight. This doesn’t come without risk. We’ve discussed warning signs before, but the number one rule to abide by when doing shoulder workouts that call for heavy weight is to stop at any sign of pain. On Daily Spot, some routines may include low-rep standing barbell shoulder presses. If at all during the sets you go from feeling 100% to thinking something may have tweaked (or even pushed in a wrong way) then stop what you’re doing and rest your shoulders. One of the biggest mistakes you can make in the gym is performing heavy exercises for mass, injuring yourself, and convincing yourself that it’s OK to keep lifting. Break. Recover. Come back in a few days or weeks after you’re feeling 100%.

Shoulder Exercise Instruction

Below are examples of selected shoulder exercises that incorporate a dumbbell. Form is very important here. If you're going to try these for the first time, start with minimal weight and consider asking a trainer to spot you.

Barbell Upright Row

While standing, hold a barbell with a narrow grip with your palms facing you. Keeping the bar close to the body, pull the bar to just under chin height by raising your elbows up. Lower the bar back down to the starting position.


Standing Barbell Military Press

Standing with feet shoulder width apart, BB at shoulders press BB straight up overhead. Lower the bar back to the starting position.


Barbell Shrug

Stand with hands placed shoulder-width on a barbell, feet shoulder-width as well. Lift the barbell by raising the shoulders as high as possible.



Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises

Too much weight and too little stability are the reasons we’ve cited that increase risk of a shoulder injury. Dumbbell shoulder exercises are at the crux of these two because they incorporate weight and require you to have proper form. This is why controlling your shoulders during these exercises is key. The less random movement the better. Dumbbells also add the ability to use alternating shoulder exercises. Here are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of injury when performing these exercises.


Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises

In our section about shoulder workouts at home we discussed a few of the key bodyweight shoulder exercises. One of the quickest ways to hit on shoulders only using your bodyweight is to modify push-ups. After all, the major force that you’ll need to make use of here is gravity. Instead of discussing the value of bodyweight shoulder exercises, we’ve included two examples below and will provide instructions on how to do them. These can be done anywhere – your office, your home, or anywhere that there is a place to elevate your feet.